The Associated Press reported that Stevens arrived at a Benghazi hospital about 7 p.m. Eastern, and was pronounced dead later. Doctors said he died of asphyxiation, due to smoke inhalation. U.S. officials said that would have to be confirmed with an autopsy.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said there is strong evidence that the attack was planned.
“This was a well-armed, well-coordinated event,” Rogers said in an interview on MSNBC. “It had both indirect and direct fire, and it had military maneuvers that were all part of this very organized attack.” Rogers referred to weapons that aimed directly at a target and those, such as rockets and mortars, that are fired without a direct line of sight.
According to Firas Abdelhakim, a Libyan television journalist who said he witnessed part of the attack, a group of several dozen armed men mounted the assault.
Abdelhakim said he was about three miles from consulate when he saw 20 to 30 cars driving toward the consulate shortly before 9:30 p.m. Tuesday.
When he reached the consulate, he said, he saw about 50 armed men gathering who were not carrying banners or chanting slogans. When asked who they were, they described themselves variously as “Muslims defending the Prophet” and “a group of Muslim youth” who were “defending Islam,” Abdelhakim said.
He said he saw Libyan security forces — the February 17 Battalion — guarding the consulate, a walled-off villa compound with several buildings, a swimming pool and one security watchtower on an unpaved side street in a prosperous residential district of Benghazi.
The assault on the consulate started sometime between 10:30 and 11 p.m., and the two groups traded fire, Abdelhakim said.
Benghazi residents said the compound had never previously had a major security presence around it.
Libyan Deputy Interior Minister Wanis al-Sharif said the security force was outgunned by the attackers, who joined a demonstration of “hundreds” of people outside the consulate. He said the original demonstration, which began as early as noon and escalated during the evening, was apparently called to protest the offensive film.
Sharif said armed men “infiltrated” the protest, but that the Libyan government did not believe they were Islamist militants. Instead, he said, authorities suspect they were loyalists of slain former strongman Moammar Gaddafi who were out to upend the country’s fragile political situation.